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How Often Should You Unload The Magazine Of Your Concealed Carry Firearm?


These questions seems to pop up a lot; How often should I empty my magazine? Should I alternate magazines? What happens to my springs?

The truth is this; If you are running a modern firearm, keeping your magazines full will not hurt them in the long run. A well-manufactured spring in your magazine is designed to hold the load of rounds for long periods of time and should not weaken the spring to the point of being useless. Some manufacturers will say to alternate magazines x-amount of months, but it is our understanding that most do not even mention it in their literature.


There are benefits to unloading your magazines, such as cleaning. If you carry the same magazine with the same rounds on a daily basis, dirt and debris will naturally start to build up. Every once in a while, it is recommended to unload and give everything a nice cleaning. This includes the rounds that are in the magazine. A quick wipe with a towel (make sure not to leave debris from the towel on any rounds) should do the trick.

Another thing to keep in mind if you live in a warmer climate; Remember that your body sweats, and sweat can make its way into a magazine. While most modern manufactured ammo is extremely well put together, you always run the risk of moisture making its way into a round. We personally cycle through carry ammo every few months, especially during the summer, but that is completely up to you. It’s more of a ‘better safe than sorry’ mentality for us.

So there you have it. After much research and personal experience, that is our two cents on the subject.

Carry On.

Categories: Beginners Guide, General
About Brandon Curtis | View all posts by Brandon Curtis

Brandon is the founder of Concealed Nation and is an avid firearm enthusiast, with a particular interest in responsible concealed carry. His EDC is a Glock 27 that holds Hornady…

Brandon is the founder of Concealed Nation and is an avid firearm enthusiast, with a particular interest in responsible concealed carry. His EDC is a Glock 27 that holds Hornady 165 gr FTX Critical Defense rounds, and rides comfortably in an Alien Gear Cloak Tuck 3.0 holster.

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  • Douglas Cowdrick

    I had a magazine for a P220 where the constant in and out of my pocket caused the rounds to get condensation on the casings. They corroded together and would not feed. I pulled off the baseplate and they were stuck together. Of course this was ammo carried for over a year. I’d say every 6 months but not to “rest” the spring.

  • Tim K

    Good article…as Travis stated it is spring cycling that will wear out springs. So actually frequently switching mags actual wears them out faster. Cleaning them is very important and probably totally overlooked by beginners. Another thing to watch out for is keeping the same ammo in the gun so that when you do down load for cleaning the gun or to render it safe you rotate the cartridges so that you don’t load and unload the same round in the chamber all the time. This can effect cartridge integrity over time. I like the idea of shooting them for practice once a month if you get to the range that often. The Army has had problems with 5.56 rounds in war zones where soldiers chamber and un-chamber the same round over and over.

    • Nathan

      I brought that up with support with Glock while on the phone about getting the magazine plate off. They said (after mentioning that keeping them loaded isn’t hurting it that much) that it is keeping the springs compressed that would hurt them. Rather than the cycling of the springs.

      • Tony Amalfitano

        Exercising the spring will wear it out. I had magazines loaded for 20 years and when I finally shot them they ran just fine.

        • Nathan

          Good to know. Maybe they just didn’t know what they were talking about…

          • Andrew Jones

            It’s been shown in several other applications that it’s the cycling, not compression. Chances are the tech person knew plenty about the gun, but not about springs in general. My most convincing moment came when an engineer that designed various springs for one of the car manufacturers chimed in with the actual facts about spring properties and the metals used today, showing that compression, for whatever amount of time, did not weaken the spring, but constant back-and-forth did. It was an interesting read.

          • law-abiding-citizen

            Yep. Cycling the spring fatigues the metal, much like bending a piece of sheet metal back & forth along a crease, or working the brass when reloading. Eventually it fatigues in some way or another. With brass, it actually becomes more brittle – it’s called work-hardening. With the sheet metal, it weakens. With the springs, they lose the ability to rebound to their original length.

        • Tim

          I have also heard (in the military) not to max load a magazine. 18 rounds in a 20, 28 rounds in a 30. The issue was jamming, not spring failure.

          • Tony Amalfitano

            That goes back to the 1960’s, ancient History.

          • Tim

            Creak, My military time goes back to the 70’s. That’s about how long rules-of-thumb stay around.

          • law-abiding-citizen

            The reasons for doing anything are perfectly described by the “5 monkeys in a cage” story. Too long to type here, but you should look it up if unfamiliar.

          • OldNYFirefighter

            Compressing & uncompressing a spring is what breaks down the physical structure of the spring metal. Modern springs can be compressed for years & will still return to their natural uncompressed state. It is through wear (rubbing) against the spring (magazine) housing that changes the crystalline structure of the spring over time. Actually a spring has just so many compress, uncompress cycles before it starts to weaken or in some cases even becomes brittle & will break. You are talking about thousands of cycles before this happens. Keeping them clean of grit & debris is far more important to keep them working properly. FYI, I am a Mechanical Engineer & used to do metal stress testing for a major company. You will probably wear out the barrel or other mechanical parts of a weapon long before the magazine is worn out.

          • law-abiding-citizen

            That’s with the cheap-ass government mags made by the lowest bidder. Quality mags like P-mags don’t have that issue. A lot.of it is the materials. In a P-mag, the plastic follower glides pretty smoothly on the plastic housing. With the governor issue lowest bidder mags, the follower does not slide so well against the metal housing, especially when they get dirty. Add in the fact that many of the lowest bidder mags have a follower that will tilt & allow rounds to shift, & you’re just compounding the problem.

    • michael voeller

      We found that out first hand chamber in the same round and cocking it every time left a small dimple in the primer deeper and deeper each time until it goes off (M4A4)….. our guy got lucky as hell, the round went through the tip of his pinky toe into the head of a mk-19 round and it didn’t go off. after we all looked for each other and found out what happened (we were cav and he was an attached C I guy) we all had a laugh. .. but it can be some serious stuff if you don’t watch it

      • Tim K

        That would have been a bad day if the MK19 round would have gone off. I’m not sure how easy it is to set of the explosive in the MK19 round with a bullet strike but I wouldn’t want to be that close to test it.

        • arun lal

          if memory serves me right the 40mm round has to be spun in order to be armed. I never tested it, nor did I care to.

          • Tim K

            Actually I believe it needs spin and set back in addition to a timed escapement to arm…..but that doesn’t mean a bullet hitting the HE wouldn’t make it go high order.

        • GrumpyShamurai

          Its impossible to set a mk19 round off by shooting it.

          • Tim K

            So say a 25mm du projectile hits the 40mm grenade and hits the HE in the round. IMPOSSIBLE TO GO OFF?

      • Logan

        Thats because most ARs have a floating firing pin. So the force of the BCG going forward sends the firing pin forward slightly. Some more modern designs use a spring to keep it back. There is not a pistol that I know of that uses a floating firing pin.

        Striker fired guns are not only not floating, but cocked ¾ back when you chamber a round, so that wont happen.

        • brutal

          The issue with rechambering the same round repeatedly in semi auto pistols is bullet set back. If you chamber the same round often, you could be creating a potential pressure spike when you need to discharge the firearm.

  • Guest

    Do these comments accept color?

    • Southern

      Nah, white privilege here! haha

  • Stu Chisholm

    Funny; I’ve got Glock mags purchased during the Clinton AWB that were old when I got them that function just fine. Most stay loaded all the time, only being unloaded when headed to the range to save the expensive carry rounds. As the article states, I’ve changed out springs on one mag exactly once, in a carry gun after a particularly hot, sweaty summer. When the gun is concealed, sometimes sweat gets in through the mag release button and other openings. When you find water inside ANY part of the firearm, it’s time to take a very close look at any and all metal parts. I also changed out all of the springs that year. Again, so far there’s been not one malfunction attributable to compressed mag springs in nearly 20 years of constant use.

    • Sparafucile

      If springs failed like that, we’d be replacing firing pin springs with great regularity. They live 99.9999999% of their lives in compression.

      • Stu Chisholm

        True dat!

    • OldNYFirefighter

      I keep large packages of silica gel in my gun & ammo cabinet just for humidity control reasons. Moisture & dirt is your weapons biggest enemy. Every six months or so change the silica gel packs out & heat up the old ones in a oven to drive moisture out & store them in ziplock bags for later reuse. It will keep surface rust off of your weapons, magazines & prevent corrosion of ammo.

      • Stu Chisholm

        Outstanding solution for my smaller gun safes that are too small for dehumidifers. Thanks!

      • Jed

        Right you are — I’ve used that solution for years. In my neck of the woods the relative humidity is so low that drying the packs is almost never needed.

      • SkulliWulli

        Food dehydrator works great for recharging silica packs.

    • law-abiding-citizen

      Look into Outer’s Metal Seal. It’s a spray-on anti-corrosive designed specifically to keep moisture out. It’s intended for storage, but I can’t see where a quick k shot into the frame & trigger assembly of a carry gun would hurt it. Almost positive that in addition to metal (obviously) it’s plastic & wood compatible as well.

      • Stu Chisholm

        I’ll definitely check into that. Thanks for the tip!

  • Frank

    I had magazines for a smith and Wesson 659 loaded and in my safe for many years. This was a gun I got in the early 80’s and some of these mags had been loaded for over 12 years and after hearing all the hubbub over this topic, I went out and fired all that old ammo and had not one bad round or one FTF. My safe is in my basement and humidity is not a problem so I will only worry about lint in my carry magazines.

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  • Largo Fandango

    Fortunately, for those of us in the”Unconstitutional State” of CT, this isn’t a problem.
    Loading 10 rounds in our (legally registered) 15 round magazines eliminates theproblem of the spring’s developing a memory.
    Still need to perform routine maintenance, as noted.
    Remember, Cleanliness is next to Reliabilityness!

  • Samuel

    I’d say that over-compressing would be bad for them, but, all my magazines won’t fit more than specified, but still has some extra give to it. I also bought a 1911 magazine that has a galvanized square steel spring that’s supposed to be corrosion resistant, and has a lifetime guarantee to not fail. Also i carry hornady critical duty rounds with high visibility stainless steel casings. Easier to see at night, and collect after a shooting. I was wondering though, what’s the possibility of using a dry lube graphite spray that doesn’t collect dust to lube the spring? Could the graphite wear off onto the round and cause problems like oil does?

  • Preston

    I unload my carry magazine every time I go to the range. That method seems to keep my ammo fresh, my pistol clean, and my aim sharp! Of course, a good cleansing of my pistol is ritual after a stop by the local shooting gallery.

  • Nattleby .

    I want to also note that loading and unloading the same round multiple times will beat up the rim that the extractor grabs, and scratches up the case. I would imagine this could cause malfunctions and/or corrosian eventually. I carry a Polish P-64 with 9×18 Hornady Critical Defense Rounds. I make sure that I put aside rounds that have beat up rims and use them only at the range. Never seen any dimples on the primer though…

    • Logan

      Its less about the rim getting beat up, as it is the chamber and feed ramp causing the bullet to get set back into the case, which massively increases the pressure, and could result in a kaboom.

      • law-abiding-citizen

        Done enough times, it can also chew up the extractor rim enough that It could case a failure to extract. In a self-defense situation, that can be bad.
        Over-pressure may or may not result in your gun blowing up. But if it fails to extract, your first shot better get the job done, cuz you ain’t getting a Seco d one for a long time.

  • bobfairlane

    You should unload them as often as you can afford that amount of ammo. haha

  • Independent Voter

    Cycling through your carry ammo is probably more important than the magazines.
    The Jihad is in effect, my friends. We need to be in tactical mode, not to take a life, but to save lives.

  • Independent Voter

    Watch for Olympic Arms to market an AR variant capable of .30-’06.and even hotter.

  • Chris Rhodes

    When cleaning the rounds in the magazine I want to point out to not use a solution. Only use a dry rag. I had a LEO use his CLP on his ammo to make sure it was clean for inspection and they wouldn’t fire when he needed them. Now he also wasn’t the sharpest tool in the shed but for beginners that have never taken care of ammo it’s a good tip. Also don’t use the same round as your chambered round… when you keep chambering the same round over and over you start to take away the integrity of the cartridge and it won’t extract properly after firing.

  • Rick Martin

    Practice, go to the range once a week, try different brand ammo, clean your weapon afterwards, holster it, no problems! lol

  • Bill Catz

    I unload all my magazines at the range every week when I fire off every round in them. :)
    I just enjoy my weekly range trips and it helps me keep that critical muscle control too.

  • m444ss

    Generally speaking, you only need to unload your magazines when being assaulted.

  • TwoTon

    Good advice. I personally unload when cleaning as well. Better to kill all the birds with one pebble.

  • paulm53

    If you carry hollow points, germs get into the bullet. You could give the person you shoot an infection!

    • Matt McCay

      good to know. I saw a native african tribe wipe poop on spear tips to infect their enemy, and was doing the same with my hollow points. Nice to know I can cease doing this.

      • A M

        …little dab of bacon grease in the hollow point hollow part?? ;)

        • Matt McCay

          if you’re constipated; sure, why not lol.

  • Colin

    As mentioned by Brutal, setback is an issue. While you have you gun apart, it would be a good time to chamber check your ammo, to make sure if fits nicely.

  • Semachiah benJacov

    I figure it this way. I “should” practice once a month. That serves as my opportunity to empty all of my Mags.